Choose Happiness

Happiness is for idiots. (Charles de Gaulle)

My life’s work, both personally and professionally, has been about happiness: the having and the not having.

Being happy most of the time feels nice.38844465-2

Being unhappy for some or most of the time does not.

Some believe that being unhappy can have just as much value, if not more, than being happy. Do we need unhappiness to develop our full potential or is it pretty much a waste of time? Despite controversy in this area, I have come to believe that it is okay to be happy even if it means, according to de Gaulle, that I am an idiot.

Born into a lower middle class family and living in North Edmonton, I spent most of my teenage years trying to keep a lid on my unhappiness. Positive thinking became a welcome Band-Aid at the time. Unbeknownst to me, this practice laid a foundation for some interesting discoveries: what is the power that lies behind our thoughts? And what do our thoughts have to do with our happiness?

A recent CBC news broadcast called Are You Happy? featured the latest scientific research on the happiness movement. Shawn Achor, author and Harvard researcher studied The Science of Happiness. Achor literally shows us what the brain looks like when we think negative thoughts verses positive thoughts. There is now scientific evidence to prove that happiness is good for our cognitive and emotional functioning. Many of us know that already.

“Happiness does not fall from the sky.” Achor goes on to say “if you do not practice gratitude, kindness and praise, the happiness part of your brain will atrophy.” He claims positive results from his protocol will be evident within a month. Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage provides further guidance.

Why are some of us happy most of the time and some of us not? Is it because of life’s circumstances or is it how we define life? Are we healing our wounds or running from them? Some of us may be blessed with “too much serotonin” as a friend and former real estate agent of ours used to quip. She was delightful person to be around: always smiling, always teasing, and always finding something to laugh about, despite personal circumstances that would stop many of us in our tracks.

Achor is sought after as a guest speaker. Happiness seminars have been brought into the workplace and the results show increased productivity of up to 30%, and a 40% increase in the probability of being promoted if you practice happiness. Worker morale is boosted which usually leads to fewer sick days reported. The business community is paying attention. There are waiting lists for his workshops.

Having to work at being happy seems like an oxymoron to me.

How hard is it to choose happiness? According to Achor, it boils down to just that, choosing happiness. Upon his recommendation, I tried choosing happiness every morning for one month before any other thought could pop into my head: like checking off my “to do” list, worrying about one of my children, or wondering what the point of living was anyway.

“I choose happiness,” I said, this, followed by three things to be grateful for.

The results? I now ease into my day with a touch of joie de vivre. Not bad, not bad at all.

Idiots of the world unite!


Note: you can find Shawn Achor’s Happiness tips at



  1. Jean June 28, 2015 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    Good piece Julia. Very smoothly written, and I love the content. Thanks!

  2. Aydan July 3, 2015 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Yes, happiness is a choice. I have often chosen negativity as a whip to keep me motivated to change, improve at a skill, life, whatever. It is a very strange feature of the human makeup that we do better, change faster when we lighten up, not knuckle down. Acceptance of what is as it is is the first step toward change!* Figure that one out. No wonder De Gaulle was not complimentary bout happiness. *(It is also the foundation of many religions -though seldom practiced)

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